AP Interview: Moussa on Egypt after Brotherhood

CAIRO (AP) — A longtime Egyptian diplomat and former presidential candidate said Tuesday that the Muslim Brotherhood must drop its demand for the country’s toppled president to return to power to avoid further bloodshed.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Amr Moussa said it was up to the Islamist group to decide whether it wants to be part of the country’s future.

His comments mirror the increasingly hardened stance of Egypt’s military-backed government toward the weekslong sit-ins by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood member.

Moussa warned the group not to “act foolishly and show carelessness about bloodshed” through sticking to “untenable” demands about reinstating Morsi and restoring the country’s Islamist-drafted constitution.

“It is in their hands,” Moussa told the AP. “If they act intelligently at this stage, they will certainly move into the future.”

Moussa, who under deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak served as foreign minister and later was head of the Arab League, said that anger is rising across the country over the continuing Brotherhood protests at two sites in Cairo and elsewhere.

More than 250 people have been killed since Morsi’s July 3 ouster in a military coup that came after millions took to the streets to protest against his administration. The dead include at least 130 people killed in two major clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters.

Moussa, who ran unsuccessfully as a presidential candidate in the 2012 election that brought Morsi to power, later became one of the most vocal opponents of the Islamist leader’s rule.

While saying “democracy is the solution,” Moussa insisted the coup was the only way to remove an increasingly overreaching Morsi from power.

“Had they performed well, nobody would have gone to the streets,” Moussa said about Morsi’s Brotherhood.

“This is an act of nationalism, an act of people who feel duty-bound to defend their rights,” he added.

Since Morsi’s ouster, posters and signs bearing the image of military leader Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi have appeared throughout Egypt, raising questions about whether he could cross into the country’s political scene.

Moussa said el-Sissi represented “a symbol of a strong stand in a time of a lack of leadership,” but that he was satisfied with the general remaining in the military.

Moussa also acknowledged the danger that blind nationalism can pose to Egypt.

“That’s why we have to run the elections very quickly … and settle this question once and for all — for the next four years,” he said.

Asked if he’d run in a planned 2014 election, Moussa said he had no plans to contest. At one point in 2012, polling numbers suggested he could sweep into power, a nod to popularity that even had him be the muse for a hit Egyptian song called “I Love Amr Moussa, I Hate Israel.”

Moussa lost that chance as he and others split the ticket in the primary, setting up Morsi to become the country’s first democratically elected president.

Now, there is a different reality in Egypt.

“I would support any younger-generation guy that can convince me that yes, he’s the one who could do it,” Moussa said. “Let us pave the way for a younger one.”

He brushed off a question whether there was someone he could specifically support this time round. Egyptians have a big population to choose from, he suggested.

“We are 90 million. We are going to be 100 million in a few years. There are a lot of people who could do the job.”

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP .

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